Keith Maitland at KLRU's Texas Independents' Day

Posted on March 4, 2010

Earlier this week, PBS affiliate KLRU in Austin, Texas, commemorated Texas Independents’ Day by celebrating the work of three local filmmakers whose work will appear on this season of Independent Lens. Learn more about the event from Keith Maitland, filmmaker of The Eyes of Me.

Last night, nearly 200 people gathered in a dark room to share an hour-long look into the lives of four blind teenagers. With the twinkling lights of the Austin City Limits stage as a backdrop, I couldn’t ask for a more fitting place to experience the incredible communal experience of watching the live Independent Lens broadcast of The Eyes of Me. The Eyes of Me follows four blind teens over the course of one dynamic year. It’s about watching these teens growing up before our eyes. 

As they discover who they are, it is my hope that you will discover something about yourself –– it’s about challenging your own perception and seeing yourself in a new way… at least that’s what it’s always been about for me. The entire process of creating this film, from a nascent idea, through 250 hours of rolling cameras, and two and half years of editing, has been both rewarding and challenging in degrees that I’m still not sure I can register. Along the way, I have learned many lessons about my creative processes, and my own humanity.

The event was especially exciting for me –– by coincidence Independent Lens scheduled the film to air on March 2, otherwise known around these parts as Texas Independence Day. Patrick Floyd, my producing partner had the great idea to celebrate Texas Independence Day as Texas Independents’ Day due to the fact that this season, Indie Lens has chosen three Austin-based independent films: The Eyes of Me, Karen Skloss’ Sunshine and The Horse Boy by Michel Scott.

 As the crowd assembled in the historic room, Bill Baird of the Austin band Sunset, kicked off the night with a short set of his distinctively beautiful songs –– many of which are on the soundtrack of my film. KLRU set the stage for an incomparable filmmaker’s round table led by the award-winning filmmaker and professor, Paul Stekler. Paul was effusive in his description of all three films and probing in his line of questions for me, Karen, and Michel. It was a rare pleasure for me to share the stage with these filmmakers and to give our assembled audience a view into the other great Austin films that Independent Lens will present this season. Each filmmaker gave their own perspective on what goals they have for the impact of their film on the audience and I was really pleased to hear both Karen and Michel express sentiments similar to my own –– we make independent films so that audiences can connect with our subjects and in effect, understand themselves and each other that much better. It’s a simple goal that takes years of work to accomplish. 

During the screening I experienced a mixture of feelings: happiness, pride, and relief. It’s been a long road to get to Independent Lens. There have been a lot of folks who have contributed to the effort and without them all, last night could never have happened. To everyone at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the hundreds of individual donors, All Blind Children of Texas, The Meadows Foundation, Austin Film Society, ITVS, Independent Lens, PBS, and, of course, to the audience who let us into their living room last night, on Texas Independents’ Day, I can’t think of anything more fitting to say than: Thanks Y’all. 

-Keith Maitland Filmmaker, The Eyes of Me


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